It was truly an honour last night to have been asked to host the grand opening of a new cinema, the HMV Curzon in Wimbledon, guest of honour: Shane Meadows. The cinema itself actually sits above the existing HMV on the high street and may well point the way forward in these uncertain times: a large record chain expands its old-fashioned business to include music venues and now, cinemas. Wimbledon has a massive Odeon – indeed, the new Curzon is virtually next door, in an almost sneery gesture – but this is increasingly a place where the movie-lover takes his or her life into their own hands, not really knowing whether the viewing of a film will be actually possible, what with all the young people talking and texting all the way through it.
The Curzon is essentially an arthouse cinema, which means it may charge a few extra quid (tickets at Wimbledon will be capped at £10), but that, combined with its more esoteric programming choices, means that it’s less attractive to the talking and texting teenagers. Anyone living South West of the river should be as cheered by its arrival as I am. I frequently trek into London’s busy West End to visit either the Curzon Soho or Curzon Mayfair for a respectful, eyes-front, mobiles-off evening of cinemagoing – recent happy occasions include Moon and Antichrist (well, maybe happy isn’t the correct word for Antichrist). Let’s hope the Curzon Wimbledon will develop into a profitable venture. It has three modest-sized screens; the biggest, the Red Screen, seats just 103 patrons, but in comfort and with all digital mod cons. (I’m told the entire cinema can be operated from a laptop in space, or something.)
Anyway, to the glamorous gala night: our guest of honour was Shane Meadows, whose ace new film – shot in five days for £28,000 – Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee, was the inaugural screening, and he was a terrific sport, wielding the giant golden scissors and being photographed in a sea of HMV logos and with Nipper the HMV dog (seen above with Karolina Kus, the Curzon Wimbledon’s manager). Having posed with the giant scissors, he was then given a normal-sized pair to actually cut the ribbon! I have known Shane, on and off, in a professional capacity, for many years, and he remains unnecessarily gracious about the fact that his first ever award was presented to him for his no-budget debut feature Small Time by Collins & Maconie’s Movie Club on ITV in 1996. (We sprayed a Fisher-Price farmyard gold and called it the Barn D’Or.) He was happy to do an informal, sit-down chat before the screening – after Simon Fox, Chief Exec of HMV Group, had presented him with a complete Seinfeld box set, which he had cheekily mentioned he was after in a short promotional film for the cinema’s opening. Shane really is one of the good guys, unspoiled by success, just as cheery and sociable and amenable as he was when I first met him, and just as fired up by getting out there and making films. Le Donk is hilarious and moving, and you should see it. At one candid point in our Q&A, Shane admitted that he considers Once Upon A Time In The Midlands “a piece of shit” but that its commercial failure, despite big names and a massive marketing push, actually helped relaunch him as a guerrilla filmmaker. (It isn’t a piece of shit, but it lacks the personal beating heart of his other work, and if it led to the rich seam of work beginning with Dead Man’s Shoes – which Paddy Considine did as a favour for his old pal – then it was worth doing.)
So, a successful launch. The cinema itself opens tomorrow (Friday). It’s rare that a new boutique cinema opens, and it was thrilling to be there, and to have lured so many people south of the river to see it. (Nipper the dog is a bitch. No, really.)
Thanks to Hugh Thompson for the official photos. And thanks to Debbie, Nadia, Karolina and all at HMV and Curzon for giving me the chance to host the evening. Also to Gennaro, a whirlwind presence at HMV since I used to work at Q, who reminded me to mention this charitable venture:
The HMV My Inspirations 18-month calendar is based on the ads with nice black and white photos of famous musicians you’ve probably seen. Proceeds go to children-and-young-adults cancer care charity CLIC Sargent.